Wednesday 5 January 2011

Marion True: “Neither condemned nor vindicated”

Neither condemned nor vindicated”. Marion True, the former antiquities curator of the Getty Museum, speaks out on why it is hard for her to accept the lack of verdict after her five-year trial for "conspiring to receive antiquities that had been illegally excavated and exported from Italy" (The Art Newspaper 5th January 2011). The trial began in November 2005. True presents her side of the story:
the prosecutor, fully aware of the statutes, consumed the past five years with the presentation of his case, interspersed with endless delays. [...] During this time, my lawyers were able to cross-examine witnesses but not to present my case. [...] This politically motivated process accomplished its goals long ago. It made headlines with groundless accusations that destroyed my reputation and career, while intimidating other American museums into returning objects without question. [...] The intention was to use the case against me to condemn publicly the collecting of antiquities and to terrorise museums and collectors, especially in the United States. [...] The strategy worked extremely well. American museums chose not to join forces to challenge the Italian position, but silently went their separate ways, with directors travelling to Italy to make private deals to return objects in the hope of appeasing the prosecutor. There was even a sense of relief that I was the only target of the Italians. Yet, it now appears that I will not be the only victim. [...] If the case against Princeton goes forward, perhaps American museums will stand together and not yield to intimidation. Their antiquities collections have been built carefully over more than a century, and are important educational resources in a country that considers the achievements of ancient Greece and Rome fundamental to its own culture. Certainly, methods of collecting in the United States and elsewhere have changed over this time, as have laws and conventions protecting cultural patrimony. But negotiations and collaborations that I and many others promoted with Italian colleagues for years are far more productive in the long run than endless, destructive and expensive litigation.
I suppose the question is just what it is that is to be "negotiated" when a museum is caught out with looted or illegally exported material on its hands. The time for collaboration is before the event, not after. In the case of "Princeton", just what it is American Museums would be "standing together" in defence of and why?

Photo: Marion True in happier days

1 comment:

Museum Security Network said...

So now the Italians are guilty, and not True with her close friends Hecht and De Medici. A 100% disgusting statement! I share True's opinion that it really is a pity the trial ended this way. It would have been a lot better If she had been convicted.

Ton Cremers

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